For months, the western rural region of Homs was an unusual model of coexistence in Syria's brutal two-year-old civil war. Now, it risks becoming a dark episode in the country's deepening sectarian conflict.
Syria's uprising-turned-war has forced most Syrians to take sides in a struggle that has killed more than 100,000.
But in this strategic stretch of territory, home to a potentially combustible mix of religious groups with conflicting political loyalties, they had avoided that stark choice.
Wary of opening a new front, warring parties allowed villages to cooperate quietly with both Assad's Alawite-led forces and the majority Sunni rebels struggling to topple him.